The Miankaleh Peninsula is a peninsula located in the Caspian Sea in Iran. It is considered one of the most important and unique ecosystems in the world due to its rich biodiversity, diverse habitats and unique species.
Miankaleh is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a wetland of international importance. It is home to a wide variety of species, including over 300 species of birds, more than 70 species of fish, and many mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Some of the most famous species living in the Miankaleh Peninsula are the Caspian seal, the Mediterranean monk seal, and the critically endangered sturgeon species.
The Miankaleh Peninsula also serves as a crucial stopover point for migratory birds along the East Asia-Australasia Flyway. It is estimated that more than two million birds from over 200 species use the area as a migration stopover or wintering site each year.
WHERE IS THE MIANKALEH?
Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge is located at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, the Miankaleh Peninsula separating the Bay of Gorgan from the Caspian.
The entire bay and its adjacent marshes along with the peninsula, an area of about 68,000 hectares (263 square miles), was declared a Protected Region in 1970 and a Wildlife Refuge in 1974.
Why is the Miankaleh Important?
Miankaleh is a shelter for a quarter of a million waterfowl, including especially the greater flamingo, greylag goose, lesser white-fronted goose, red-breasted merganser and the rare white-headed duck.
Within the Miankaleh Peninsula, however, excessive grazing of domestic stock, hunting and the cutting down of most of the forested areas had all but exterminated the once profuse and diverse wildlife.
But by the time the reserve was declared a Wildlife Refuge, the reappearance of wild boar, fox, jackals, jungle cats, as well as pheasants and black francolin, gave promise of recovery of the peninsula’s fauna.
Of even greater importance is the undisturbed regeneration of the peninsula vegetation, as this is perhaps the only sizeable area of the Caspian coastal ecosystems to be afforded protection.
The Miankaleh reserve remains the finest refuge in Iran for very large numbers of migratory waterfowl.
Breeding birds, in years when there has been plenty of rain in early summer, include many heron Ardeidae species.
The Pratincole Glareola pratincola nests in large colonies and along the shores Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus and Little Terns Sterna albifrons are the characteristic breeding species.
The wetland is extremely important for a wide variety of waterfowl and other birds during the migrations and in the winter, including Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and many species Of Ardeidae and Ana- tidae, including various swans and geese, notably the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus.
The Lapoo-Zagmarz Ab-bandans consist of a group of muddy-bottomed fresh- water lakes and marshes, fed by irrigation canals, rainfall and run-off.
Flooding takes place in autumn and winter and the water level fluctuates considerably but is to some extent controlled, the water flowing sluggishly eastwards into the marshes at the western end of the Gorgan Bay.
Phragmites reedbeds are the dominant feature Of the vegetation but there are stands or scrubby areas of reedmace Typha, willow Salix, Currants Ribes, berries Rubus and pomegranate Punica and an abundant submersed vegetation.
Besides the Ardeidae and a few Anatidae nesting in the pond area, there is a large colony of Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida.
It is also important for migrating and wintering species, especially Red-crested Pochard Nerta rufina and Coot Fulicaatra; more occasional visitors are swans Cygnus spp. and White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala.
How To Get to and Around Miankaleh?
To visit Miankala, you need to obtain an entry permit from Iranian tour operators and you must enter the protected area with a guide and a ranger. SURFIRAN is one of the companies that can help you arrange the permit and provide a guide and ranger for your visit.
To get to Miankaleh, you can fly from the Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran to the Sari Dasht-e Naz International Airport, From there, you can take a taxi or a private car to get to the reserve and it takes about 1 hr 30 min (60.0 km).
Another option would be to take a bus from Tehran to the nearby city of Sari (5 hr 30 min – 280 km), and then hire a taxi or a private car to get to Miankaleh.
Once you are in Miankaleh, you can explore the area on foot or by bike. Some tour operators also offer boat tours of the wetland. It is necessary to hire a local guide who can help you navigate the reserve and spot wildlife.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Miankaleh?
The best time to visit Miankaleh depends on what you would like to see and do there.
For birdwatching, the best time to visit is from October to March when migratory birds are in the area.
For general wildlife viewing, spring and autumn are the best times to visit, as temperatures are mild and vegetation is lush.
For water activities, the best time to visit is from May to September when the water level is high and conditions are suitable for boating and other water-based activities.
Miankaleh is a wetland and wildlife reserve, so there are many activities and things to do in the area. Some of the popular activities are:
- Birdwatching: Miankaleh is home to a wide variety of migratory and resident bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatching.
- Wildlife viewing: In addition to birds, you can also spot a variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in Miankaleh, including the Asiatic cheetah, the goitered gazelle, and the roe deer.
- Boating: Miankaleh is surrounded by water, and you can take a boat tour to explore the wetland and see its wildlife from a different perspective.
- Hiking and biking: There are many trails in Miankaleh that are suitable for hiking and biking. These trails offer a great opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area and observe its wildlife.
- Photography: Miankaleh is a photographer’s paradise, with its stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and unique flora.
Essential Gears for Your Journey to the Miankaleh
Here is a list of essential gear that you should consider bringing on your journey to Miankaleh:
- Binoculars: Binoculars are essential for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
- Camera: A camera is a must for capturing the stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and unique flora of Miankaleh.
- Sun protection: Sun protection is important, especially during the warm months, when temperatures can be high. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Insect repellent: Insects can be a problem in Miankaleh, especially during the warm months. Bring insect repellent to keep bugs at bay.
- Comfortable clothing and shoes: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are appropriate for hiking, biking, or other outdoor activities.
- Water and snacks: Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and fueled during your journey.
- First aid kit: A basic first aid kit is always a good idea, especially when traveling in remote areas.
- Cash: Cash is useful for purchasing permits, hiring guides, and buying souvenirs.
- Map and compass: A map and compass can be helpful in navigating the area, especially if you are planning to hike or bike.
- Trash bags: It’s important to keep the environment clean, so bring trash bags to properly dispose of any waste.
Staying in and Around the Miankaleh
Local homestays: Some nearby villages offer homestays, which can be a great way to experience local culture and hospitality. Our suggestion is Miankaleh Guest House. You can find the contact details by searching on google or contact the SURFIRAN to make a reservation.
Hotels in nearby cities: If you prefer more comfort and amenities, you can stay in a hotel in a nearby city, such as Sari. From there, you can hire a taxi or a private car to get to Miankaleh for the day.
How Many Days Should You Plan to Spend in the Miankaleh?
The amount of time you should plan to spend in Miankaleh depends on your interests and the activities you would like to participate in. Here are some suggestions:
- For a quick visit: If you are only interested in a brief overview of the area, one day might be enough.
- For birdwatching: If you are a bird watching enthusiast, you might consider spending 2-3 days in Miankaleh.
- For nature lovers: If you are interested in experiencing the natural beauty and diversity of Miankaleh, you might consider spending 3-5 days in the area.
MIANKALEH WILDLIFE SANCTUARY AND WETLAND
The barn owl is the most widely distributed species of owl and one of the most widespread of all birds. Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons.
There are 16 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Iran. Barn owl, Tyto alba.
Barn Owl is most easily identified by its tan head and body, pale breast, triangular facial disk (most owl species have round faces) and brown eyes. Part of a small group of owls mostly found in Australasia, this species is unlikely to be confused with owl species outside of its own family. Male and female Barn Owls are similar to one another in all seasons. Barn Owls occur across much of the globe.
The collared pratincole or common pratincole (Glareola pratincola) is a wader in the pratincole family, Glareolidae. The genus name is a diminutive of Latin glarea, “gravel”, referring to a typical nesting habitat for pratincoles. Pratincoles are unusual among waders in that they typically hunt their insect prey on the wing like swallows, although they can also feed on the ground.
The collared pratincole is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Phalacrocoracidae is a family of some 40 species of aquatic birds commonly known as cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently, and the number of genera is disputed. There is no consistent distinction between “cormorants” and “shags” as these appellations have been assigned to different species randomly.
The European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae. The genus name Merops is Ancient Greek for “bee-eater”, and apiaster is Latin, also meaning “bee-eater”, from apis, “bee”. It breeds in southern Europe and in parts of north Africa and western Asia. It is strongly migratory, wintering in tropical Africa. This species occurs as a spring overshoot north of its range, with occasional breeding in northwest Europe.
Flamingos or flamingoes are a type of wading bird in the family Phoenicopteridae, the only family in the order Phoenicopteriformes. There are four flamingo species in the Americas and two species in the Old World.
The hoopoe is a colourful bird found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive “crown” of feathers. Three living and one extinct species are recognized, though for many years all were lumped as a single species—Upupa epops.
Kingfishers or Alcedinidae are a family of small to medium-sized, brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species found outside of the Americas.
LESSER GREY SHRIKE
The lesser grey shrike is a member of the shrike family Laniidae. It breeds in South and Central Europe and western Asia in the summer and migrates to winter quarters in southern Africa in the early autumn, returning in spring.
The little egret is a species of small heron in the family Ardeidae. The genus name comes from the Provençal French Aigrette, “egret”, a diminutive of Aigron,” heron”.
THE WHITE WAGTAIL
The white Wagtail is a small bird. Breeds mainly in Europe, Asia and North Africa. Colour of upper part of the body is mostly grey, and the bottom is white. The white wagtail is an insectivorous bird of open country, often near habitation and water. It prefers bare areas for feeding, where it can see and pursue its prey. In urban areas it has adapted to foraging on paved areas such as car parks. It nests in crevices in stone walls and similar natural and man-made structures.
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER
The little ringed plover is a small plover. The genus name Charadrius is a Late Latin word for a yellowish bird mentioned in the fourth-century Vulgate. It derives from Ancient Greek kharadrios a bird found in river valleys.
The mute swan is a species of swan and a member of the waterfowl family Anatidae. It is native to much of Eurasia, and the far north of Africa. It is an introduced species in North America, Australasia and southern Africa.
Pelicans are a genus of large water birds that makes up the family Pelecanidae. They are characterised by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped up contents before swallowing. They have predominantly pale plumage, the exceptions being the brown and Peruvian pelicans.
The red-necked phalarope is a small wader. The English and genus names for phalaropes come through French phalarope and scientific Latin phalaropus from Ancient Greek phalaris, “coot”, and pous, “foot”. Coots and phalaropes both have lobed toes.
The common pheasant is a bird in the pheasant family. The genus name comes from Latin phasianus, “pheasant”. The species name colchicus is Latin for “of Colchis” a country on the Black Sea where pheasants became known to Europeans.
The corn bunting is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae, a group now separated by most modern authors from the finches, Fringillidae.
WESTERN MARSH HARRIER
The western marsh harrier is a large harrier, a bird of prey from temperate and subtropical western Eurasia and adjacent Africa. It is also known as the Eurasian marsh harrier.
The great grebe is the largest species of grebe in the world. A disjunct population exists in northwestern Peru, while the main distribution is from extreme southeastern Brazil to Patagonia and central Chile.
The cuckoos are a family of birds, Cuculidae, the sole taxon in the order Cuculiformes. The cuckoo family includes the common or European cuckoo, roadrunners, koels, malkohas, couas, coucals and anis.
Photos by: Hor Mansouri
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